On first glance, Houston photographer Cara Barer‘s photographs of water-damaged books are a beautiful form of book art in which the book is altered and transformed into a sculptural object not through the interference of the human hand, but through passive lack of interference and exposure to the elements. In fact, while some of the books in the photographs are found objects, others were altered by Barer herself. The photographs are documents of an artistic process as well as of how man-made objects are decayed and destroyed by nature. While on the one hand the images remind us of the often-sallied-about cry that “print is dead” (despite evidence that books, magazines, newspapers, zines, broadsheets, posters, graphic novels, etc. are still being printed and sold) they make me think as well that, if print is dying or perhaps falling ill, the book does so in a beautiful, sculptural way.
From the artist statement on her website:
My photographs are primarily a documentation of a physical evolution. I have changed a common object into sculpture in a state of flux. The way we choose to research and find information is also in an evolution. I hope to raise questions about these changes, the ephemeral and fragile nature in which we now obtain knowledge, and the future of books.
[...] As I begin the process, I first consider the contents of each volume. I didn’t spend more than a few seconds on “Windows 95,” but the “New Century Dictionary of the English Language,” is a treasure that, because of its fascinating illustrations, and archaic examples, saved it from taking on a new form. Sculpting segued to thoughts on obsolescence and the relevance of libraries in this century.
Half a century ago, students researched at home with the family set of encyclopedias, or took a trip to the library to find needed information. Now, owning a computer, and connecting to the internet gives a student the ability to complete a research paper without ever going near a library. I have fully embraced that technology, and would not want to be without it, but, I also fear that it is rapidly leading us to rely less and less on the reference books common in the last two centuries.
With the discarded books that I have acquired, I am attempting to blur the line between objects, sculpture, and photography. This project has become a journey that continues to evolve.
I learned about Cara Barer’s photography via PDN Photo of the Day.